RNAO Holds Health Care Debate for Kingston and the Islands Candidates

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Kingston and the Islands candidates in the upcoming provincial election gathered virtually on Wednesday afternoon to discuss ongoing health issues in the province.

Progressive Conservative candidate Gary Bennett, Liberal candidate Ted Hsu, NDP candidate Mary Rita Holland, Green Party candidate Zachary Typhair and Ontario Party candidate Shalea Beckwith joined the Kingston from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario to discuss healthcare worker burnout, staffing shortages, the future of Ontario’s healthcare system and the rising cost of life in the region.

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The topic dominating the candidates’ debate was the health human resources crisis that has been at the forefront of the health care system for the past few months. According to a 2021 report by the Nurses Association, even before the pandemic began, Ontario’s health care system was short of approximately 22,000 nurses, and this shortage has only increased with the weather. Healthcare workers across the province have sounded the alarm over critical staffing shortages which they say are impacting working conditions and compromising the quality of patient care.

Holland, Hsu and Tychair were all quick to pledge to repeal Bill 124 – a law passed by the Ford government in 2019 that limits wage increases for healthcare workers and has been a source of concern for health workers across the Province.

Beyond their pledge to repeal existing legislation, Holland, Hsu and Typharir all offered various approaches to strategies to increase the number of healthcare workers, including hiring more nurses trained in health care. abroad, hiring more healthcare workers in full-time positions and providing additional financial and professional support to recruit student nurses.

Bennett provided a different solution to the current shortage. His solution claims to fix the retention problem and would offer nurses an end-of-year bonus of an unidentified amount. Additionally, Bennett suggested that the province reimburse 100% of graduate nurses’ tuition.

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Beckwith was widely concerned about pandemic emergency measures and pledged to end lockdowns by setting “clear and onerous” criteria for the province to enter future lockdowns, but when asked the criteria, Beckwith said, “We don’t have any sort of established criteria at this time. »

In addition to addressing the health care human resources crisis, debate moderator Jennifer Waite pressed the candidates on their positions regarding Ontario Disability Support Program rates and the high cost of living in the Kingston area. Currently, someone living on ODSP receives a maximum of $1,169 per month, while according to zumper.com, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the area is $1,505.

Hsu and Holland called for the ODSP to be increased by 20% immediately, with Hsu adding that a Liberal government would also implement automatic adjustments for inflation. Along with the increase, Holland said that under a New Democrat government, the ODSP program would be overhauled to tackle the “dehumanizing” elements that force people to jump through bureaucratic hoops to receive help.

Tychair used the ODSP question to pitch his Guaranteed Basic Income plan, which he said would provide a basic safety net for all Ontarians, regardless of eligibility. The Green Party has also pledged to immediately double ODSP rates, if elected.

Bennett took a markedly different approach than his opponents, suggesting that raising welfare rates would not be effective.

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“Putting more money into these programs is not something I’m a big fan of. I think one thing our party emphasizes is understanding the role of education, because education is the way out of poverty and is the cornerstone of the programs we have in place to help people out of poverty,” Bennett said.

While Bennett didn’t seem too keen on increasing ODSP rates, the Ford government earlier this week committed to a 5% increase in ODSP.

As the candidates closed the debate with their closing statements, Nurses Association member Daria Adele Juudi-Hope bid the candidates farewell with a promise.

“We will hold you accountable, and please reach out to us because you need to engage with your constituents to find out what needs to be done,” Juudi-Hope said.

The Ontario election is June 2, and information on how to vote is available in line and by phone at 1-800-668-8683.

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